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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Seven Storey Mountain (SPCK Classic)
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77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2001
'The Seven Story Mountain' (UK title 'Elected Silence') is a modern classic - an intimate biography of a man in search of God and finding Him in the great silence of a Trappist monastery. Born in France in 1912, Merton lives in American and grows increasingly disillusioned with contemporary society. The book chronicles his conversation to Catholicism and details his journey from atheism to a life amongst Cistercian monks in Kentucky. 'The Seven Storey Mountain' is a spiritual autobiography for anybody who cares about the quest for the soul's final harbour. It is a delight.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2010
Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain is an exceptional book which tells the story of his Life, until just after he becomes a Trappist Monk.
It starts with him as a child, and Merton moves around the world (France, America, England, etc), before 'settling' in New York. Although the first third is interesting, I found that it was quite slow paced, but I still enjoyed it. However, when Merton becomes a Catholic, the book suddenly transforms, and some of his writings are incredible beautiful (two of the bits that come to mind are firstly when he is talking about Philosophy/Theology Students who read The Summa without really participating in Catholicism, and compares them to people sitting outside a Banquet whilst starving, and secondly when he first visits Gethsemane and writes about Christ's Sacrifice ["See His wounds, see His torn hands, see how the King of Glory is crowned with thorns! Do you know what Love is? Here is Love, Here on this Cross"]).
Merton's writing style is one that is both beautiful and accessible. Merton is also clearly very honest about what he felt and how he lived, and how unsatisfactory his life was.
In the title, I compared this to St Augustine's confessions, as I feel that they have many similarities (particularly the way that they show God's transformational power), although there is obviously a difference in the style of language that they use, the content is very similar, yet strikingly individually.
One of the most amazing things about it, is the way that Merton makes the Monastic Life seem so appealing without saying anything really, other than that it is the life for him, and that "I [Merton] want to give God everything."
I have found that I have recommended this book to many people (even a person I met on a train), and am so grateful that it was recommended to me, for it is a book that I have truly loved, and learnt so much from. And so, without any doubt, I give this book Five stars, and recommend it to anyone who wants to know what the Christian life is, or anyone who can see that Human life on its own is ultimately unsatisfactory.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2000
Thomas Merton writes with moving, often funny, searingly insightful eloquence of his own conversion to Christianity and then his journey to becoming a Cistercian monk. His story is fascinating, and his prose and intelligence sparkle -- this classic book is an excellent way of introducing deeper spiritual thinking into our own lives through the easy medium of autobiography.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2006
THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN is an honest book. The author does not seem to conceal much about his relationships with his friends, parents, grandparents and brother or his life as a monk. His spiritual climb from being totally immersed in the world as an academic to his entry into the Trappist monastery at Gethsemany is portrayed as a torturous struggle. As the book ends the reader gets the impression that many more such battles are still in store for Merton.
When setting out to read books by this author, I recommend beginning with THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN. It will leave you with a desire to read more about Merton's pilgrimage as reflected in his later works.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2002
Thomas Merton has a knack for describing in clear prose his spiritual journey from Atheism to Christ in a manner accessible to any reader. This book is not stuffy and churchified but fresh and full of insight into the condition of humanity in the twentieth century.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2009
This book is a romance - the story of how Thomas Merton and his monastic vocation got together. In it you will find many vivid details of Merton's life before he became a monk, and also a gripping description of the awakening in him not only of a spiritual life but a life ordered and nourished by religious rituals. He started making daily prayers on train journeys in New York State, before he even knew if an order would accept him.

But that was a long way down the line - much of the book tracks his journey through the Secular Wonderland which if we're not careful is so hypnotising, we'll be on that ride for life. Or maybe it isn't hypnotising at all and that's why this book is a best seller...
Merton is a good writer. If you long for something which will show you that there are more options in this world than there seem to be and that innocence is not only something lost in childhood and pined for but something precious which can be fought for and regained - read this book. It is a template and inspiration for how to write from a perspective which puts the inner life first. But that is a secular response - the book is also a strong call to get on with it, and live for God. Not that Merton is giving advice, but that his story is inspiring.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2011
I have to say that, at this stage of my life, aged 65, this is the best book I have ever read, in the sense that it is entertaining, literary, breathtakingly impressive. It is the story of a man's life from babyhood to early manhood; a man with a huge cultural background who turned, not without a fight, to God and settled with him finally as a Trappist Monk. J D Salinger meets Augustine of Hippo.

Before reading this book, I would have said 'Portrait of a Lady' was my favorite, as the characters stay with you forever. But now I am buying copies of 'Seven Storey Mountain' for anyone who will accept it. I also would like to recommend to anyone who cares about the effect of the Reformation in England, 'Characters of the Reformation' by Hilaire Belloc. It is a series of short chapters on some 27 major players at the time of the Reformation in England and Europe. (Doesn't sound very good - but he writes with a rousing voice, confident, cultured and Catholic!)

God bless you all!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Thomas Merton found the antidote to modern materialism and hedonism, and the hollowness and emptiness that accompanies its desperate pursuit. He tried to run away from his deepest instincts by immersing himself in a self-serving lifestyle - but he could never find the happiness that path promised. However, because he was essentially an open mind, eventually he discovered the source of true peace and joy.
You may not have anything in common with his cultural background, and you may not even particularly like him as a person - I didn't - but if you are a seeker for truth, you will identify with this man. He is no plaster saint. Neither are you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2013
This is an extremely engaging story of a journey of a man struggling with life, moving towards the Catholic faith and eventually becoming a Trappist monk. It is quite difficult at times to follow the theology as he grapples with it but stay with it, he clarifies most aspects to enable you to understand and benefit from his thinking. I believe this book can make a difference to your life, and it is also very enjoyable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2013
Brilliant, just brilliant. If you are no longer sure what life is all about then read Thomas Merton's story and be inspired.
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